Christmas comes early this year! Christmas shopping anyway-or this is my plan. In the past few years, I have seen too many queues and empty shelves make things accidental. (Supply chain, guys!) I have been making a list. I have checked it twice, but most of it was ticked off before Halloween.
When December comes, if you are struggling to get a delicious Christmas cookie, or Terry’s chocolate orange, then-sorry, fool. If you snooze, you lose.
I got them first.
Retailers encourage us to spend early-although they will, won’t they? Only 400 shopping days before Christmas 2022. Here is a precedent: Big Tinsel had actively strived for a longer Christmas season before. In 1939, the American Dry Goods Association realized that Thanksgiving would be postponed to November 30. This is considered a problem, because selling Christmas gifts before Thanksgiving is considered a form of crude consumerism. (When an American shopper accuses you of rude consumerism, you know you are out of bounds.)
RDGA promptly lobbied President Roosevelt to advance Thanksgiving by a week and November by a week. He did it, and the change eventually stagnated, despite his “Thanksgiving DayThe decree was considered domineering. A well-known political opponent even hinted that it evokes “Hitler’s omnipotence.”
The longer Christmas shopping season must make certain logistical issues easier. But will-did it? — Will it really increase retail spending?
One view of the earlier appearance of tinsel and jingle bells in stores is that retailers are playing zero-sum games with each other to attract customers. A family may spend a fixed £250 on Christmas gifts, food, drinks and decorations, whether they start in September or Christmas Eve. The early celebrations of all retailers were scrambling to get a share of the £250 and then spend it elsewhere.
Another view is that we shoppers are more malleable than this, and every day we are immersed in the Christmas spirit tempts us to spend more money.
In order to find out which point of view is correct, we need to look at the data. In 2005, the economist Emek Basque That’s how it is done. She studied the United States. Thanksgiving is now between November 22 and 28. The shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas range from 26 to 32 days. She found an obvious pattern: When Thanksgiving Day comes early, Americans will indeed spend more money. This amount of money is not a small sum: according to today’s calculations, each person needs about $10 a day. Robert UrbanA political scientist used a similar method to examine the job market and found that the longer Christmas, the higher the level of employment.
Professor Basker estimates the total vacation expenditure by comparing all expenditures in November and December with all expenditures in September and October; in today’s currency, the difference is approximately $300 per person.Using a slightly different method, the author Genomics Joel Waldfogel made roughly similar estimates of Christmas sales growth.
The message is clear: Not only do retailers set up decorations to steal each other’s Christmas sales, they also increase the total spending of our vulnerable customers.
Parkinson’s Law Applies to spending as much as any other task; Christmas expands to fill the available time for its completion.
Should we worry about this? I am willing. I think Christmas is great, but Christmas consumerism is not. The data clearly shows that a large part of our Christmas spending is superficial and wasteful. Most of us know this intuitively. Starting early may make Christmas more expensive and therefore more wasteful, but it is hard to imagine how it will make it more interesting.
But as a lover of Christmas and the list, I am usually even ahead of the boldest retailers. This year’s worries about the supply chain just gave me an excuse to push the advance preparation to the ridiculous extreme. Both the data and my own experience warn me that just because I start earlier does not mean I will finish sooner: I may just hover and spend more money on gifts that may be increasingly misjudged.
Nevertheless, my course for this year has been confirmed. This will be an interesting experiment. I hope to start early to give me more time to be thoughtful and to find gifts that people might really want. I hope to write some proper Christmas letters, catch up with friends who haven’t hugged since 2019, and maybe even play some board games. My plan is that when Christmas is in full swing, I will be able to focus on Dickensian carnivals and revelry instead of rushing in a crowded store.
It might work. Wizzard hopes that “every day can be Christmas”, but, of course, Christmas is not the case-it always brings time challenges. If you prepare too late, the result will only be stress and anxiety, but if you start the party too early, you will lose your seasonal goodwill long before the twelfth night. Maybe this year I will do it right.
Tim Harford’sThe next 50 things that will make a modern economy“It’s a paperback now
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